December 2018

Editor's Blog: Happy Holidays, A Million Thanks, And See You In January

MotoMatters.com is taking a break for the holiday season. This will be the last post on the site until the New Year, circumstances willing. It has been a long year, with 19 rounds of MotoGP and 13 rounds of WorldSBK to cover, and it is time to recharge our batteries for what should be an outstanding 2019 season.

So let me first of all say thank you to all our readers for following the site, but most especially to our Site Supporters, the subscribers who make it possible to run the site and pay for us to actually attend races - my personal schedule included 14 MotoGP races, 3 MotoGP and 1 Moto2 test, plus a couple of sundry events - and to pay our contributors who add such amazing value to the site. The growth in the number of subscribers has allowed us to add such features as the beautiful action photos by CormacGP, or the tech porn of Tom's Tech Treasures, close up technical photos by Tom Morsellino with detailed explanations of what we are looking at by world championship-winning crew chief Peter Bom.

If we can replicate this growth in 2019, we will be able to even more great features. We have already signed up WorldSBK guru Gordon Ritchie to a monthly column, and have our sights on yet more world-class writers for next year. So if you love what we are doing, and what to help us make MotoMatters.com better, the best thing you can do is support us financially. You can make a donation via the website or directly via Paypal. You can support us via our GofundMe page. Or best of all, you can become a Site Supporter by taking out a subscription. In addition to the extra content we offer to subscribers, we will also be regularly giving away a variety of MotoGP-related goodies to subscribers, including signed caps, exclusive items such as the RCV213-S launch media pack, and more.

Thanks are also due to all of our contributors, especially MotoGP reporters Zara Daniela and Mike Lewis, WorldSBK reporter Jared Earle, WorldSBK writer Steve English, technical guru Peter Bom, and photographers CormacGP, Tom Morsellino, and Andrew Gosling. A special word of thanks to everyone who has helped us all year by patiently answering my stupid questions and supporting us with advice and information.

And thanks once again to you, our readers. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or whatever you choose to celebrate. A happy New Year, and may 2019 bring you good health, great happiness, and above all, a season of fabulous motorcycle racing!

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Tech3 Boss Herve Poncharal On Switching To KTM, Signing Marco Bezzecchi, And Being A Yamaha Satellite Team

2018 proved to be the end of an era for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Early in the year, team boss Hervé Poncharal signed contracts which would see them leave Yamaha for KTM, and Monster for Red Bull, becoming the Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad. 20 years of history with Yamaha, and 10 years with Monster Energy ended, a new future began.

At KTM's home round of MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, the Austrian factory announced their program for the coming two years. As part of that, Tech3 announced they would also be switching to KTM for their Moto2 entry as well, with riders Marco Bezzecchi and Philipp Öttl moving up to the intermediate class, joining Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin in MotoGP.

On the Sunday after the race in Austria, I spoke to Hervé Poncharal about his plans for the next two years, and how he saw the years he had spent together with Yamaha. He talked about his pleasure at signing both Bezzecchi and Öttl, what he expects from his relationship with KTM, and ponders the predicament in which Yamaha find themselves.

Q: You announced your program this year. It’s also in Moto2, with Philipp Öttl and Marco Bezzecchi. You must be very excited about Bezzecchi.

HP: I am. This was a big mission because when we decided to move from Yamaha to KTM, I clearly took the decision to move everything - MotoGP, Moto2. But it was not easy to find the right riders. A lot of them were already signed. I’m very happy because Marco is… I don’t like to jump on the rider when he’s somebody, but I spoke to Uccio about Bezzecchi in Argentina, and even last year. So for a long time I’ve been working on him.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Perception Is Reality?

In the ever-whacky race series that is WorldSBK, watching it all from up close for over two decades allows a very different perspective from those who comment on it from afar.

Whether that remote viewpoint comes from all along MotoGP's ivory watchtower, or the ramparts of lower altitude national series', the view of WorldSBK through foreign field glasses shows a perennially distorted and often negative image.

But closer inspection always allows a greater level of clarity.

Simply put, what those outside 'the scene' believe are the few assets and multiple liabilities of WorldSBK are frequently different from the realities that make up the other World Championship.

Now that social media posts often determine what is 'true', simply by having more people agreeing with this belief rather than that opinion, you don't need to examine things too closely in our post-truth age, do you?

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Aprilia Appoint Massimo Rivola Racing CEO, Romano Albesiano Technical Director

After what has been a very difficult year for Aprilia's effort in MotoGP, the Noale factory is to shake up its racing department. Current Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano is to be moved sideways to concentrate on the technical side of the racing program, while Massimo Rivola, former Ferrari F1 team boss and head of Ferrari Driver Academy, will take over as CEO of Aprilia Racing.

The move is a response to the difficulties Aprilia has faced since making a full-time return to MotoGP. Romano Albesiano's background is in engineering, but being forced to manage both the engineering and the sporting side of Aprilia Racing did not prove easy. Albesiano clashed on occasion with Aprilia Gresini team boss Fausto Gresini over the running of the team, which further detracted from Albesiano's ability to focus on the technical development of the RS-GP.

Rivola's appointment allows for a clear split in responsibilities. Rivola will oversee the entire organization, covering all aspects of racing. Romano Albesiano has been appointed Technical Director, and will oversee the engineering and technical side of the MotoGP project. And Fausto Gresini will focus on managing the MotoGP team, along with the Gresini Moto2 and Moto3 teams.

The press release from Aprilia announcing Rivola's appointment appears below:


MASSIMO RIVOLA TO BE APRILIA RACING CEO

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 89: The WorldSBK Extravaganza

In the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, Jensen Beeler, Steve English, and David Emmett take a deep dive into the WorldSBK championship. We take a look back at last season, and use that, and the results of the Jerez WorldSBK test, to preview the 2019 season, leading to a debate on what WorldSBK should be, and the difficulties of managing a racing series for motorcycles which are primarily to be sold for use on the road.

We start off with a long look at Kawasaki, and how Jonathan Rea has come to define the Kawasaki era. We analyze the reasons Rea has become such a dominant factor in the series. But we also discuss Tom Sykes, his situation, and how Sykes has handled Rea coming into the team.

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2019 WorldSBK Calendar Finalized: Laguna Seca Added To Make

The FIM today announced that the 2019 WorldSBK schedule has been finalized. The provisional round originally added for 21st July has been moved a week earlier, and is to be held at Laguna Seca. That had previously not been considered financially viable, but some reports are suggesting that Dorna may have given Laguna a further discount on hosting the round, because of the importance of the US market.

The arrival of Laguna Seca means that the planned South African round at Kyalami has been pushed back until at least 2020. But paddock rumor suggests that everything is being done to make this happen.

Below is the full 2019 WorldSBK schedule:

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride: Jorge Lorenzo

Just before his 2018 season went pear-shaped we talked to the three-time MotoGP king about how he transformed his riding technique from 2015 to 2018

How much did things change for you in 2016, when MotoGP switched to unified software and Michelin tyres?

A lot, a lot. When we started testing the new electronics and tyres at the end of 2015 and at the beginning of 2016 it was a huge change, because the first few times I tried the new electronics the engine-braking was always locking the rear wheel, because the software was very old-fashioned and not so sophisticated. It was difficult to ride the bike – you wasted a lot of energy and you were almost two seconds slower. Then little by little, it got better.

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Puig vs Pedrosa vs Rossi: Why The Controversy Hides Some Fascinating Insights Into Marquez And Lorenzo

On Saturday 15th December, Barcelona-based daily newspaper La Vanguardia published a lengthy interview with Alberto Puig. That is in itself mildly surprising: despite being team manager of the Repsol Honda squad, Puig has little time for the media, and little interest in speaking to them. What is even more surprising is that it is a truly insightful and fascinating interview, revealing a lot about how Puig views running a MotoGP team, and what makes Marc Márquez tick.

So it is a shame that the discussion the interview has generated has centered around two of the briefest subjects Puig mentioned: his views of Dani Pedrosa, whom Puig thought had not been fully committed in recent years, and his thoughts on Valentino Rossi, whom he believed had seen his moment pass.

The old dog

Which of those generated the most controversy depended on where in the world you were. Puig's comments on Rossi were biggest in Italy, unsurprisingly. Perhaps rightly so, given the comparison Puig made between Rossi and Marc Márquez. Rossi has been a great rider who he fully respected, Puig said. He was impressed by Rossi's refusal to accept that he shouldn't be able to compete at his age, and by his undimmed desire to win. But, Puig said, "he is having a hard time accepting his moment has passed."

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